There are many ways to show your support for the Black Lives Matter movement right now, including getting educated, donating, and supporting black businesses and creators. Below is a list of eight incredibly powerful essays by black writers to read during this time and to share with people around you.
1. “Scenes from a Life in NegroLand” by Margo Jefferson
“We’re considered upper-class Negroes and upper-middle-class Americans, Mother says. But of course, most people would like to consider us Just More Negroes.”
Jefferson writes about growing up black in a middle-class white area, and the racism she faced from the people surrounding her. She has taught at New York University and The New School and is currently a professor of writing at Columbia University. To support Jefferson further, you can purchase her full book, Negroland, here.
2. “A Letter from a Region in my Mind” by James Baldwin
“One did not have to be very bright to realize how little one could do to change one’s situation; one did not have to be abnormally sensitive to be worn down to a cutting edge by the incessant and gratuitous humiliation and danger one encountered every working day, all day long.”
Baldwin is known as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. This essay is one of many that he wrote on his experiences living as a black man in the U.S.. In this piece, he discusses being black and a religious Christian. You can find more of his legendary works here.
3. “Getting In and Out” by Zadie Smith
“Often I look at my children and remember that quadroons—green-eyed, yellow-haired people like my children—must have been standing on those auction blocks with their café au lait mothers and dark-skinned grandmothers.”
In this essay, Smith reviews Jordan Peele’s film, Get Out, and discusses the painting, Open Casket, which was hung in the Whitney. The painting sparked protests when it debuted and Smith uses the two works of art to discuss what people have the right to create, and what they don’t. Smith is currently a professor at New York University and more of her work can be found here.
4. “The Word is ‘Nemesis’: The Fight to Integrate the National Spelling Bee” by Dr. Cynthia R. Greenlee
“What a hard, heavyweight for black children to bear, to be the person who literally spelled trouble for white supremacy.”
Greenlee has a doctorate in American history and has devoted her life’s work to writing and researching about black interaction with U.S. law. In this article, she details the fight to desegregate the National Spelling Bee, and all of its local factions. More of Greenlee’s research on a variety of topics can be found here.
5. “The Color Fetish” by Toni Morrison
“There is a perfectly good reason for the part colorism plays in literature. It was the law.”
At age 86, Morrison was still as powerful as ever. In this essay, she sticks to her bookish roots and analyzes the use of colorism in literature. After this essay, there is so much more Morrison to read (including her Nobel Prize-winning novel, Beloved). You can find her work here.
6. “Color Vision” by Hilton Als
“We had seen posters advertising the piece months before we headed to midtown; Shange’s face, as painted by Paul Davis, had been plastered around the city. We hadn’t seen a black girl’s body promoting anything literary since Kali published her book of poems, in 1970.”
Als begins this piece by recounting the time he saw Shange live on Broadway as a kid and then continues on to highlight the life of the star. Als is an associate professor at Columbia University and a theater critic for The New Yorker. You can read his other reviews here.
7. “Who Gets to be Angry?” by Roxane Gay
“I AM an opinionated woman, so I am often accused of being angry. This accusation is made because a woman, a black woman who is angry, is making trouble. She is daring to be dissatisfied with the status quo. She is daring to be heard.”
Gay has tackled many topics in her best-selling novels. She’s spoken about obesity, race, sexism, and more. In this article, she discusses how angry women, and especially angry black women, are viewed in society. You can find more of her empowering work here.
8. “A Clear Presence” by Aisha Sabatini Sloan
“When I heard that [Rodney] King had died, two details, in particular, stuck out to me. One was that he died in a swimming pool. The other was that earlier that day, somebody had heard him scream.”
Sloan masterfully braids multiple topics into one in this piece. She talks about Rodney King, David Hockney, O.J. Simpson, and her own life as a black woman in Los Angeles. To find out more about her two novels, or read other beautifully constructed essays by Sloan, click here.